The reason a dog wags its tail is because the dog is smarter than the tail. If the tail were smarter, then it would wag the dog. It might sound odd, but this is what we are informed at the beginning of the political satire 'Wag The Dog.' Just assume the public as the dog, and the media as the tail, everything of the about the mentioned statement falls into place. In that manner, the tail indeed wags the dog. Even though the corporate media cannot tell people what to think, they can tell people what to think about.
Barry Levinson's satire is one of the funniest comedies and at the same time carries serious, thought-provoking message about the relationship between politics and mass-market entertainment. The film presents a simple, but tantalizing what-if scenario: What if the American government were to invent a fake war, with fake footage, and feed it to major news outlets?
Plot'Wag The Dog' revolves around the attempts of Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro), a political consultant, to create a distraction that will keep the media from focusing on a sexual indiscretion committed by the President two weeks before election day. A big-time Hollywood producer, Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) was also called by president’s operative Winifred Ames (Anne Heche).
Winifred says "Nothing short of a war could divert the public's attention." So Conrad decides to stage a war against Albania. He chooses Albania, because the name sounds sinister and no one in the United States knows anything about the country. Watch the movie to find out how they hilariously stage a war. Conrad, Stanley, and Winifred are wagging the dog, but who or what is the dog? Is it the media? or the ever-eager public? May be both.
AnalysisDirector Barry Levinson was responsible for winners like Tin Men, Rain Man, and the recent 'You Don't Know Jack.' Like those movies, he's in complete control of the material and directs with a sure hand. Levinson perfectly balances the biting humor with a true-to-life tone that is so spot-on. The movie is adapted from the novel 'American Hero' (written by Larry Beinhart) by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet. Their screenplay displays us both sides of the stage: all the haggling going on behind the curtain, and then the final product, packaged to perfection, that appears on the television stage for millions to digest.
The actors play their characters with ardor. Robert De Niro gets a chance here to play a role, which is not gangster or a villain, and he gives a unemphatic performance as Conrad, the fixer. Dustin Hoffman matches him as a sleazy-but-aspirational producer. Hoffman's satirical performance is sharper for being genuinely affectionate. Woody Harrelson as the staged war hero is wonderfully thick.
Wag The Dog, at first is a biting commentary on Hollywood sensibilities and at the same, it also rips out the ham-handed politics, manipulations, and lies of Washington. Most importantly, the film skewers those couch potatoes with remote control in hand, readily accepting without question whatever the so-called experts on CNN and MSNBC tell them. It explores how the intentional creation of unreality has become one of the most prominent aspects of life in our times. The result is, we have a society that is less and less able to deal with its true problems.
Watch 'Wag The Dog' because it is a film you can laugh and think your way through, no matter what your political opinion is.